There is increasing pressure on young families to send their children to school at very young ages. The “preschool pressures” can be very hard to resist—especially when everyone else you know is signing their kids up. You may be doubting your ability to educate your young child at home.
The good news is that you are already homeschooling your child. Very young children come programmed to absorb knowledge like little sponges. Just think of all the things your child has learned already without formal instruction: walking, talking, the names of countless people and household objects, and how to make all sorts of mischief about the house!
Teaching Young Children
Very young children learn primarily through play and daily life activities. Your job as a homeschooling parent is to provide the right opportunities for learning to occur, by doing things like reading books, acting out stories, doing arts and crafts projects, building with blocks and other toys, taking nature walks in the neighborhood, playing games, visiting everyday places like grocery stores and post offices, and so on. Chances are you are probably doing most of these things already.
There are prepackaged curriculum materials for homeschooling preschool on the market, but most families have found that this is not necessary for learning letters, numbers, colors, or shapes. Also, many parents have reported that requiring structured, formal schoolwork at this age created a lot of unnecessary.heartache and frustration in their house. Instead, these families recommend creating an enriching learning environment in your home, full of colorful and interesting things, like dress up clothes, crayons and markers, measuring cups, building materials, books, educational games, and so on. There are all sorts of books and Internet resources which explain how to do this at low or little cost.
Many parents are concerned about whether they should teach their very young child to read. Reading readiness is a very personal matter, with some children teaching themselves at extremely early ages, and others not being ready until well past their seventh or eighth birthdays. Most children are not ready to read until after age 5 or 6, and girls tend to read earlier than boys on the average. Late reading is normal in many children and should not be seen as a reflection on your parenting skills. If you are concerned about your child’s reading (or not reading), it may be reassuring to talk with experienced homeschooling parents who have had early, late, or reluctant readers in their families.
The best way to survive the “preschool pressures” is to surround yourself with friends and families who are living and learning outside of school. Informal playgroups or “playful learning” groups can give your child regular exposure to group activities in a low-stress setting. A successful “unpreschooling” group needn’t be complicated or fancy – three or four families meeting weekly at a home or park to play, talk, and possibly do a short project together, can be all that is required. This gives you an opportunity to visit with other homeschooling parents, and gives your child the chance to build social skills and form friendships with other children.
Homeschooling with Young Children
One special challenge for parents of very young children is how to homeschool when younger siblings are competing for attention. There are many different ways to handle this situation. Some families adapt their curriculum to meet the needs of all their children simultaneously, using unit studies or child-initiated learning. Other families do lots of classes and activities outside the home when their children are younger, saving the formal instruction for later. Some parents have special toys or activities that only come out during the older child’s school time, or save formal school time for naptime or sitter time. Veteran homeschooling parents may be happy to share their solutions for this very common problem.
Many of the books and resources for homeschooling do not address the needs and concerns of parents of very young children. Your state homeschool organization and local support group may be able to refer you to other families in your community who are homeschooling very young children. Ann Zeise’s Homeschooling A to Z website and the Abecedarian Academy website have lists of helpful books and Internet resources to get you started on your “unpreschooling” journey. Don’t forget your local library, which has lots of books with fun, educational activities for your children.
The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers is a volunteer-run, non-profit organization dedicated solely to homeschooling issues. Created in 1993, VaHomeschoolers is a state-wide, inclusive organization that provides information on homeschooling and protects and promotes homeschooling freedoms at the state and local level.
We provide a comprehensive website on homeschooling in Virginia, answer questions through our toll-free homeschool help line and email homeschool help desk, publish the bi-monthly journal Voice, as well as several electronic bulletins, and offer conferences and seminars on homeschooling throughout the year. We represent homeschooling interests in the state legislature and across the state, and help parents and school divisions resolve homeschooling issues.
Our organization has no political or religious affiliations; we focus exclusively on issues related to homeschooling. Our website does cover the specific legal aspects of homeschooling in Virginia but it is also filled with information and resources on homeschooling that apply universally. It is a great place to gather further details and support on all the topics discussed in this series
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Leslie Nathaniel has been a member of VaHomeschoolers since she began homeschooling and is now a member of the Board of Directors. Her children began learning at home as soon as they were born, but they became official homeschoolers when her eldest reached kindergarten age in 2002. Prior to children, Leslie worked in information technology consulting. She is a homeschooling mother of two. As a volunteer for VaHomeschoolers, she answers telephone and email requests for information; writes articles for the VaHomeschoolers Voice homeschool journal; speaks at conferences and seminars on a variety of topics; and organizes homeschooling seminars around the state of Virginia.
Celeste Land is a member of the Board of Directors for VaHomeschoolers and the director of our Government Affairs department. Her two children began homeschooling in 1996, and are continuing to learn at home right through the teen years. Her daughter has recently graduated from homeschooling high school and will be attending college full time this fall. Celeste has lobbied on behalf of homeschooling interests here in Virginia and Washington, DC, for 10 years. Her articles on homeschooling have been published in the VaHomeschoolers Voice and the VaHomeschoolers website, as well as several homeschooling magazines in the USA and Canada. She also has been a speaker at many homeschool seminars and conferences.
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